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The Magic Of Mother's Milk

How the intervention of an ASHA worker in Udaipur helped a newborn boy with very low weight get a new lease of life

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Pushpa Dhobi from Sanwad Ward No. 1 from Mavli block, Udaipur, is the mother of two girls and a boy. She gave birth to the boy, Harsh, on 8th February 2020 despite being at high risk. In the beginning of her pregnancy she was advised by the doctor to not give birth to the child as she had two deliveries earlier out of which the last one resulted in birth of twin girls with disabilities. One of the twins died after birth while the other can't speak. Pushpa was severely anaemic and had kidney issues. Despite the risk, she was adamant to bring Harsh into this world because she wanted a male child.

Harsh was born with very low birth weight of 1.75 Kg, Suman Sharma a highly motivated and active ASHA worker from her area visited Pushpa regularly. Since Suman had advised Pushpa not to continue with the pregnancy, she wasn’t informed of her delivery. Pushpa went with her husband and mother in law for the delivery. But Suman came to know from her neighbours, and she rushed to the hospital to ensure early initiation of breastfeeding. Suman did not complain to the family about not informing her but congratulated them on giving birth to a baby boy. Suman knew that the child was low birth weight so she politely explained to them that since now boy was born in their family, he will only be of pride if given very good care right from the beginning. The family was content to see Suman as she was being respectful of their choice. She politely explained to them the importance of feeding colostrum to the child in the first half an hour of birth because the child is extremely active right now and colostrum contains all the essential ingredients for satiating child’s hunger and giving him nutrition. Mother’s first milk is child’s first immunization against any disease the child might be susceptible to due to entering a completely new world.

Apart from that she told the family to exclusively breastfeed the child and give nothing else, not even water, until he completes 6 months of age. Suman visited Pushpa’s home on 10th February to see Harsh and the care they were providing. She received a positive response from the family when she asked if Harsh was being breastfed. She weighed the baby and found that 150 grams of weight was increased. She appreciated Pushpa and her family
for taking good care of mother and child. Pushpa asked Suman that her son was falling asleep very frequently during drinking milk and not showing much strength in suckling. Suman told them that due to extremely low weight of the child, his strength is also very low which was why he was not suckling properly. Suman explained to her the 4 positions of effective breastfeeding and asked her to give Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC).

She also advised her to not discontinue with IFA and calcium supplements and tricolor food in her diet. With the help of videos, take aways and flip cards, she counseled the whole family. Since Pushpa and her family desperately wanted a male child and they didn’t want to lose him, they religiously followed Suman’s advice and Harsh was repeatedly breastfed. Suman made 5 home visits in the first month and monitored Harsh’s weight gain as well as family’s
practices in taking care of their family's heir. She reinforced breastfeeding, taking care of mother’s nutrition, hygiene practices and providing KMC to the child in her further visits every month. Even after lockdown was imposed due to COVID-19 Suman continued her visits and weighed the child at home. In a few months she contacted Unnati staff and shared the case with him. Unnati staff appreciated Suman’s interventions and asked her to encourage the family to talk to the child as much as they could, stimulate his senses and do responsive feeding.

This would help in stimulation of brain cells among children as 80% of the brain develops by the time a child reaches 2 years of age. Though Harsh is still in orange zone after 5 months he is making progress because of Suman’s continuous monitoring and her motivation to improve lives of children as she strongly believes that children are the future of our nation. She said, “Poor nutrition and care during first 1000 days makes the child susceptible to fall into malnutrition which slows their physical as well as mental growth. If children will not be breastfed and given proper food after 6 months of birth they will not become smart which will affect their performance in school and further in life. I want all children of my village to be healthy, wealthy and wise so that future of our village becomes strong.”

Harsh was weighed again on 8th July 2020 and was 4.1 Kg. Pushpa and her family are following all the precautions as per Suman’s counseling and Harsh is showing good progress.

(Aishwarya is Program Coordinator while Prakash Menaria is the Field Coordinator at Unnati Sansthan)

courtesy: UNNATI SANSTHAN/UNICEF